September 5th 2017 #DevDiscuss - What are some career mistakes you've made or observed in others?

This one is near and dear to my heart, because I believe that as an industry, we try to dust our career mistakes under the rug and pretend that they don’t exist.

My most memorable career mistake wasn’t a technical one - although the time I commented out invoice.charge_card! and deployed to prod is definitely memorable.

Once upon a time, I was a younger, much more naive developer, who believed that work == purpose == life == meaning == happiness.

Needless to say, that didn’t go so well long term.

After about 6 months of consistently not attending family events and working most nights and weekends, I woke up with no memory of falling asleep.

My journal entry from the day before:

I just sat and cried for 20 minutes for no reason.


And my journal entry from that morning:

Not sure what happened last night (or this morning).

The last thing I remember is writing about crying for no reason last night, and then I woke up a few hours (edit: 2AM). I didn’t text anyone or anything, which is even weirder.


Just over a week later, I wrote that I had worked 40 hours that week and it was only 4PM on Wednesday. At this point (in hindsight) my journal was turning into a remarkably self-aware (if lacking in understanding) startup and emotional horror story.

Fast forward a month, and I was beginning to feel that while I needed to make a change, things weren’t that bad.

And then Wednesday happened.

I spent an entire hour sitting in the parking lot, unable to force myself to show up to work. One of my coworkers had to come out and ask me if something was wrong before I was able to go into the building.

I felt empty. No anger, no pain, no joy. Just nothing.

It was in a full 2 months from that first entry until I realized I needed to make a change (amazing how when you’re in a hole, it’s obvious to everyone except you that you’re in a hole) and started actively looking for a new job because I didn’t know what else to change.

So I found a new job (which has been great) and have been slowly healing ever since.

The moral of the story is…

Never put anything before your self care and happiness. The ability to give selflessly is important, but there comes a point at which you will have given far more than you can give, and overdrafts on the accounts of emotion and health carry very hefty fees.

Anyone who would like to talk to me about their burnout, feel free to email me. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to who has been there before.

Resources for self care and dealing with burnout:

  • A great twitter bot that posts reminders to take care of yourself @selfcare_tech
  • A great website listing resources for handling self care
  • You feel like shit. Great little site that walks you through some immediate short-term things to help.